Omega-Tek Takes The Worry Out of High Tech
by Bob Nieman

Reprint from Bowling Center Management, December 1999


Jim Hudson makes it quite clear that his company is not in the business of reinventing the wheel.

"We are not on the cutting edge of technology," said Hudson, president and founder of Shelby, Ohio-based Omega-Tek, which supplies the bowling business with conversion and expander boards for AMF pinspotters, as well as a number of other electronic goodies that today's bowling proprietors can't live without. "We would rather use readily available, proven technology to do the job, than to go out on the edge and spend years trying to debug some new concept that really isn't needed.

"The pinspotter has been around long enough," Hudson added. "It's like a propeller-driven airplane. It has reach its maximum, and there is only so much that you can do with it."

Since 1980, when Hudson started Omega-Tek, he has been doing everything that he can with it.

The company's first product was a single board conversion for the AMF 82-70 solid state chassis, which was followed in the late '80s by an expander board that enabled the single board conversion to interface with scoring to perform special functions that weren't otherwise available. In fact, the expander board converts the solid state chassis to an MP chassis with full scoring interface at a fraction of the cost of a new chassis, according to Hudson.

The success of the 82-70 products was followed up in the early '90s with a solid state conversion for the older AMF 82-30, which was in turn followed by an expander for the 82-30 conversion.

Of course, along the way, there have been several other products that were associated in a supporting role with both the 82-30 and 82-70 pinspotters—not to mention a foul light system in the mid80s, which was sold to Murrey International in the early '90s.

And, most recently, Omega-Tek has developed a complete solid state SS MP chassis for the AMF 82-70, which Hudson says he is in the process of getting off the ground.

"We're pretty busy;" said Hudson, 52. "Basically, we're selling a replacement part into a fixed market. Given the overall product line and the complexity of the new chassis, we're plenty busy."

However, because Omega-Tek uses subcontractors to manufacture the bare PC boards, as well as to put the parts on those boards, which is called stuffing, the company only has a handful of workers on staff, even during its busy season.

"The only part that we really do is the final inspection and the final test," Hudson explained. "And we do that on proprietary equipment that we've constructed."

Hudson's first contact with the bowling business came during his summers as an undergraduate at Cleveland State University, when he worked at the AMF engineering lab in Shelby. Upon graduation and after a hitch in the Army, Hudson returned to AMF full time. He spent seven years in AMF's engineering department before leaving to form Omega-Tek. Today, nearly 20 years later, it looks like a good decision.

"Our products are in both AMF 82-70 and 82-30 houses," Hudson said, "which probably comprise about 50 percent of the market or more."

More specifically, Omega-Tek has sold more than 30,000 boards in the last two decades.

"We have a product line that's been around for 20 years," Hudson said. "And I think that's one of our advantages. What we will need to do is ensure compatibility with everything we've built over the past 20 years. Also, the electronics industry has been in a state of disarray ever since the Asian crisis a couple of years ago. This has resulted in increasing costs and lead times."

However, Hudson is quick to point out that Omega-Tek has the law on its side— the law of physics, that is.

"Everything wears out," he said. "At some point, the customer has to look around for a replacement part. And that's where our future lies. We're looking for the niche market, for the part that somebody needs and a part that we can supply at a lower cost and better quality than either the original manufacturer or a competitor."

Two things that give Hudson a leg up on attracting customers are the fact that Omega-Tek has never had to recall a product in its 20-year history and the company's lifetime warranty.

It's the latter that holds the key to Hudson's future.

"What does the future hold?" he pondered. "Well, I've got a lifetime warranty, so I guess it holds a lifetime of work."

Bowling Center Management • December 1999

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